Today's guest blog post comes from Dave Roberts, Senior Program Manager for the International Association of Chiefs of Police Technology Center. Mr. Roberts has served as director of a variety of federally-funded justice IT and research projects, and is a frequent speaker on justice information and technology both in the United States and abroad. He holds graduate degrees in criminal justice from Oklahoma City University and the State University of New York at Albany.
Social media has become an integral component of contemporary law enforcement communication resources. As the 2012 IACP Survey
of law enforcement’s use of social media amply demonstrates, 9 out of 10 agencies surveyed are using some form of social media, most frequently to support investigations, notifying the public of crime problems, community outreach, intelligence, public relations, and a host of other applications.
Measuring the effective use and return on investment (ROI) that an agency achieves from their use of social media, however, is no small task. Sgt. Tim Burrows, Toronto Police Service
, pointed out that, unlike commercial endeavors, which measure ROI by the simple equation of Benefits – Costs X 100/Costs, law enforcement does not “sell” a revenue-generating product. Instead, law enforcement provides Safety, Security, and Service.
Sgt. Burrows noted that agency policies are essential to provide needed guidance on how to use social media—policies for the agency and for the community. Social media is a mix of video, pictures, Facebook entries, text, and a combination of all these forms of media. It must be timely, available on demand, relevant to the users and their interests, and accessible at leisure.
Sgt. Burrows introduced the concept of Social Currency in measuring the impact of social media, underscoring the point that “All value goes to the end user—not you [the agency].” This can be measured by the number of “Likes,” “Shares,” “Re-Tweets,” and “Favorites” that an agency garners in social media posts. In other words, does the community respond to the social media activities of the law enforcement agency; does it resonate with them? He suggested measuring a Return on ABCs—Action, Broadcast, Communication. The agency is most likely utilizing social media to trigger Action on the part of the public; to promote further distribution of information through secondary and cascading Broadcasts; and to engender Communication between members of the community and with law enforcement.
Building and measuring effective social currency cannot be automated, Sgt. Burrows noted—it must be carefully measured and monitored. Feedback must be given, social rules surrounding the use of social media is paramount, and it must be sensitive to service/agency rules. Trust, respect, and integrity are key components to a successful social media strategy, and always remember—The Message is King.
Agencies must focus on the goals, objectives, and the strategy for their use of social media. Moreover, they must listen, carefully craft the content of their messages, and monitor and cultivate relationships with the community to ensure that their campaign achieves the social currency that marks the success of their endeavor.